Easter message

Diocese of Bacolod

“If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Rm 6:8).

In this short verse taken from the letter to the Romans, St. Paul summarizes the significance of our Lenten celebration, which we have just concluded, and the meaning of Christian life itself. The Church often refers to this as the Paschal mystery.
What does Paschal mystery mean? It simply means that by his passion, death and resurrection, Christ conquered sin and death and won for us a new life. Christian life consists in sharing and living this new life in
Christ. But in order to do so, we first have to share in his passion and death. We need to die to ourselves, to our sins and vices, to our pride and lust… in a word, to everything in us that is not of Christ, so that Christ can live in us.

May our Lenten observance of prayer, fasting and charity bear fruit in
the transformation of our own life into the life of Christ himself.

As we happily end today our 40-day (Cuaresma) Lenten observance
with the celebration of Easter, we find ourselves still having to serve
another 40-day (Quarantine) observance, the Enhanced Community
Quarantine. When will this end?

I do not know if a forty-day lockdown will suffice in combatting the
Covid-19 virus. Even as we celebrate Easter, it feels like we are still in the season of Lent, in a time of pain and penance, purification and conversion.

Could it be that God wants us to extend our Lenten observance and
continue to live these days of the pandemic in the spirit of the Paschal
mystery? If we bear this present ordeal in union with Christ and die to our own self-centeredness and pride, we shall experience his healing and salvation not only when this pandemic finally ends, but already even now. I can see this in the many life-changing transformations happening around the world and right here in our diocese.

In the midst of the dark and horrendous specter created by Covid-19,
the innate goodness of humanity shines brightly, offering much hope.
Confronted with his utter helplessness, proud man is brought to his knees and returns to God. We read stories of atheists converting and of 13 million Italians attending Mass once again via TV2000 (Vatican station). We are moved by the heroism of the frontliners, who risk their lives to save ours, the generous spirit of volunteerism, as exemplified by our own Covid Warriors and many youth groups, the quick and immediate response of our people to our appeal for the Food Bank. Most of all, I also would like to highlight the silent heroism of ordinary people and their families who abided with the call of government and the Church to stay at home. By doing so, they have done a great contribution. They helped contain the spread of the virus and in the process, spare the lives of millions from the infection.

When will this end? Again, I say I don’t know. Even Jesus, after his
resurrection, asked his apostles to wait for 40 days more and another 10 days until the Holy Spirit would come to renew their spirits. Only then did they come out of the upper room and travelled the whole world to fulfil their mission of proclaiming the good news of salvation.

Perhaps, the more important question to ask ourselves is: how will this
end? My hope and prayer is that this terrible and unprecedented
experience of suffering and pain becomes a Paschal experience and ends with an Easter celebration of the birth of a new life, a celebration of the resurrection of a new people with a new heart where God reigns; a new politics and a new economics where man is valued above profit, and common good above personal interest; a new attitude and behavior towards creation that is more responsible and caring. By now, hopefully, this pandemic has made us and our families realize with growing clarity the essentials and the non-essentials in life.

I pray that when this catastrophe is finally over, everything does not
go back to normal, to what it used to be, but to a new normal, a new way of life. The lesson instilled to us by this pandemic is too precious to be squandered. Let turn every pain that comes our way into a Paschal experience for all suffering when borne with Christ can only be salvific.

May the joy of Easter fill your hearts and your homes. God bless, and
stay safe always.*

(Published in Visayan Daily Star, April 13, 2020